Black Crowes | 06.29| New Hampshire

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Words by: Andrew Bruss | Images by: Scott Fleishman

The Black Crowes :: 06.29.08 :: Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom :: Hampton Beach, NH

Chris Robinson :: 06.29 :: New Hampshire
The new and semi-improved Black Crowes came through Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom to demonstrate their dynamic new lineup to fans. For those of you who may not follow news within the Crowes camp, guitarist Marc Ford and keyboardist Eddie Harsch are no longer “Soul Singing” with the group. Adam MacDougall has taken over keyboard duties, and the hard to fill shoes of Marc Ford are being filled by none other than Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars.

Dickinson’s presence can be heard on their recent release, Warpaint. But for folks who were used to the dueling guitar dynamics of Marc Ford and co-founding brother Rich Robinson, the question of how Dickinson would adapt from his sole guitar slot in the NMA to the role the Robinson brothers expect of him could only be answered in a live setting.

To answer the question, Dickinson may not be Ford but he doesn’t try to play like him either. After opening the set with “Wounded Bird,” the Crowes plowed through a few tunes, including “Stare It Cold,” “Go Tell The Congregation” and “Walk Believer Walk,” before tearing into “Nonfiction” off 1994’s Amorica. The group is known for dishing out long, spacey jams during the tune live, and given Dickinson’s heavy blues roots, his ability to man up and dive into a free-flowing psychedelic solo really demonstrated to the crowd that he can fill Ford’s shoes, in addition bringing his own southern flavor into the mix. It took him some time to get comfortable with his solo but after a few bars each note became more and more articulate. Rather than playing off each other, ala his dynamics with Ford, Robinson followed up with his own to-the-point solo that placed heavy emphasis on his volume pedal, before vocalist and older brother Chris Robinson came back into the fold to close the song out.

Chris & Rich Robinson :: 06.29 :: New Hampshire
As top-notch as the instrumental aspect of the show was, the elder Robinson’s showmanship was below par compared to previous performances. Chris has the preternatural ability to make a crowd go wild and keep them hanging on his every word. At the Casino Ballroom he still put in the effort, and you’d better believe the crowd was digging it, but his heart didn’t seem into it. He’d sing and clap and swagger around the stage. However, in the past when he’d work the crowd during his brother’s solos, on this occasion he seemed to just drift back, chill side stage and let the guitarists do their thing. With a first-tier performer like Chris Robinson, even a down night would still put most vocalists to shame, but for Chris there was no doubt he was under-performing.

They kept the train a-movin’ with set staples like “Jealous Again” and “Wiser Time” before they closed the main set with the first tune off the new album, “Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution.”

Earlier in the evening, the group paid homage to The Band by doing an acoustic rendition of “Rockin’ Chair,” featuring both Robinson brothers on acoustic guitars and Dickinson on mandolin. Given the fact that they’ve been known to play both “Rockin’ Chair” and The Band’s “Don’t Do It” on a somewhat-regular basis, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” felt like the perfect choice to wrap up their encore. The sing-a-long that ensued was so powerful it took every previous moment of the show and amplified them with sheer beauty. Although The Band consisted primarily of Canadians, drummer and vocalist Levon Helm, who wrote “Dixie,” was a southern boy, and it was clear as rain that the Crowes felt a personal affinity with the lyrics.

When push came to shove, the Crowes’ set might not have been as great as fans had hoped for. The setlist was pretty heavy on new material, and this may have alienated some of their fans that haven’t been keeping up to date. Additionally, Chris’ shortcomings didn’t help raise the energy in the room. But, all in all, Luther and Rich proved themselves to be one helluva duo, Chris hit every single note and the powerful encore was sure gave attendees their money’s worth.

The Black Crowes :: 06.29.08 :: Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom :: Hampton Beach, NH
Wounded Bird, Stare It Cold, Go Tell The Congregation, Walk Believer Walk, Heavy, Nonfiction, Poor Elijah – Tribute To Johnson (Medley), Rockin’ Chair, She Talks To Angels Lay It All On Me, God’s Got It, Oh Josephine, Wiser Time > Jealous Again > Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution
Encore: Feathers, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals opened the show
Chris played acoustic guitar on “Poor Elijah – Tribute To Johnson (Medley)”
Chris and Rich played acoustic guitars and Luther played mandolin on “Rockin’ Chair”
Rich played 12-string acoustic guitar on the first half of “Lay It All On Me”
Steve came out front and played a marching bass drum on “God’s Got It”
Chris played acoustic guitar on “The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down”
Chris sang all of the lyrics on “Jealous Again”

The Black Crowes are on tour now, dates available here.

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